This summer at The Hearth and Home of Mrs. Newark Jackson, we’re looking at some connections betweens chocolate and presidents. Our first installment covered the Obamas, our current First Family; in this post, we turn our attention to the first First Family, George and Martha Washington.
George and Martha, like many colonials at the time, enjoyed consuming drinking chocolate. In 1758 George wrote to his agent to procure an intial order of twenty pounds of chocolate. Over the next forty years, he would go on to make further orders ranging from a small purchase of one pound to up to fifty pounds at a time! (Today, Americans consume nine and a half pounds of chocolate per capita each year.) He would take this beverage with his breakfast of cornmeal hoe cakes spread with butter and honey or later in the day with a little added brandy. Chocolate was also greatly valued for its energizing properties, and George would likely have had it on hand as part of his military rations during the Revolutionary War. At home at Mount Vernon though, Martha would have served it as an afternoon social drink alongside “chocolate cakes” perfect for dunking into the warm, thick drink.
On the other hand, there are times when the Washingtons, Martha in particular, preferred a lighter chocolate beverage, a “tea” made from the steeped shells of the cocoa beans. In 1789, George again wrote to his agent stating that “she [Martha Washington] will . . . thank you to get 20 Lbs of the shells of Cocoa nuts, if they can be had of the Chocolate makers.” Like the more substantial drinking chocolate, chocolate tea could be served at both breakfast and as a social drink to be shared with guests. This shell infusion would also have been a popular choice while traditional black tea imported from England was no longer an option.
You can find both of these first First Family staples at Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop. The recipe developed for the American Heritage Historic Chocolate beverage dates to the 1750s, about the same time that George Washington would have been enjoying drinking chocolate, and we also have two varieties of the Cacao Tea shell infusion enjoyed by Martha, in regular and mint!